Category Archives: Blog

Design Process

Starting your project with Creative Girl Media is fun and exciting! Here are the major steps you will take while working with us on a custom design (web, blog, or most other designs.) Please read the full Terms & Conditions if you’re considering hiring me for your project! Thank you!

1. GET A QUOTE

Some projects may need to be tailored to your specific needs and/or budget, and I’m happy to work within your requirements.

2. MAKE A PAYMENT

I accept all major credit cards, debit cards, and e-Checks through PayPal. You do not need a PayPal account to pay. You can choose to pay in two installments, or in full upfront for a 10% discount. All payments are due before installation of the website onto your server.

3. COMMUNICATE VIA BASECAMP

Once you have made a payment, you will be added to Basecamp, which is the project management system I use to organize our project. Here you will find to-do lists, timelines, design questionnaires, and everything we need to keep your project neat and organized!

4. MAKE EDITS

I work very hard to ensure you LOVE your design, so I don’t specify an exact number of edits you must adhere to. There are some limitations on the type and amount of revisions you can make, but ultimately your satisfaction is my absolute priority.

5. APPROVE FINAL GRAPHICS

Once you approve the graphics, you will check the box in Basecamp that serves as your electronic signature. This will indicate that I am able to begin work on the demo website. Graphical revisions beyond this point are billed at the standard hourly rate of $95/hr.

6. MAKE ANY REMAINING PAYMENTS

Along with the final graphics sign-off, a final bill will be sent to you via PayPal. Within 5 business days of your final payment, the graphics will be installed onto a test site and the URL sent to you for approval. If you have made your payment in full, the demo website will be delivered within 5 business days of your approval.

7. APPROVE DEMO SITE

The test site is either located on the Creative Girl Media server, OR on your own temporary URL. You’ll be able to see the design in action, and if on a temporary URL you will be able to go in and edit everything to your liking. When you’re ready to go live, we move on to the next step!

8. PROVIDE INSTALLATION CREDENTIALS

Installation Credentials need to be provided at least 3 business days BEFORE you plan to go live. I will ask you what I need specifically in order to install the design. Once we have all the information needed, installation will occur within 72 business hours. Please note that installations may occur at any time, and your blog will experience very brief, if any, downtime.

7-DAY LAUNCH SUPPORT

For 7 regular days after installation, I provide launch support for any issues that might arise.

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Free Graduation Printable

Two of my nieces are graduating this month. Before I broke down sobbing, I managed to create this adorable graduation printable for Today’s Creative Blog and Spoonful.com. It’s amazing how inspiration strikes when you’re pouting about the times you used to paint their nails and have girl’s nights together. That said, I couldn’t be more proud of these two women. They’re unique, intelligent, hilarious, with such huge personalities it’s almost not fair that they’re so gorgeous. Congrats to you two, and all the other grads this month!

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May Blogging Challenge!

Blogging is one of the most important things you can do for your business. There may be a teensy twinge of bias in that statement of course since I namely am a blog designer, but it’s absolutely true! Blogging gives people a reason to come back to your site multiple times, and dynamic content that is SEO and social media friendly. So, this challenge is the perfect excuse to give your blog the “oomph” it needs, and start a habit that will last for months to come!

It’s simple. Enter your blog link in the linky below, then blog at least three times per week during the month of May.

Instead of personal blogging prompts that encourage you to write about random personal things…this challenge will encourage you to create a plan for posting the BEST content you’ve really been wanting to share. Share-worthy posts that teach something informational, maybe help your business grow, and help you stand out with content others will REALLY want to read!

For example, here on CGM I’ll be posting about how to make pin-worthy images to put on your blog, some client spotlights, and tips and tricks for this challenge too! Pin this image below, and get started with your NEW blogging plan!

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5 Advanced Tips for Experienced Bloggers

For those of you that have been blogging for a few years, the basic tips for your blog design and overall blogging style have probably been covered. Keep decent white space, align your widgets, don’t have an automatic music player blaring upon page load…you’ve likely heard it all! But here are some great new tips that are perfect for more experienced bloggers needing a push in the right direction.

1. Become a typography nerd.

The fonts you choose for your blog can make or break you, and is a tell-tale sign of a professionally designed website. In addition to picking a font that’s easily readable, picking a combination of seemingly “simple” fonts can totally transform your design. Use the Web Font Combinator to see how different Google Web Fonts work together. We suggest using Google Web Fonts because they’re free, easy to implement, and there is a large assortment to choose from. (Be careful, they’re not all great fonts for your blog. Choose wisely.)

Here are some typefaces we can’t get enough of! You can download them onto your computer to use them when designing your header or other items, and also use them in Blogger and WordPress for headline and paragraph fonts. Just go to Google Web Fonts and paste the below titles into the search bar to see specimens of each.
Serif

Trocchi
Cutive
Arvo
Copse
San-Serif

PT Sans Narrow
Source Sans Pro
Open Sans
Orienta
Handwriting/Display

Petit Formal Script
Engagement
Rochester
Sevillana
More font tips:

1.5em is the best line-height to use aesthetically speaking. This puts one and a half times the font size in spacing between your lines.

Always choose a neutral color font and background. A nice medium gray on a white background is usually the best option for blogs. If you are a photographer or videographer, a black background is acceptable.

Keep colors muted. It’s much easier to see (and therefore click on) a link that is a mauve or darker pink, even if your main color is neon pink. Links are important. Don’t make them difficult to see!

2. Less is more. Seriously.

You want a memorable brand, but not a header cluttered with graphics. Style trends now focus on how to be unique with minimalism. Instead of trying to let your blog header express who you are, allow your blog and content to do that for you. Get a professionally designed logo to put in a template that is streamlined and free of unnecessary graphics. Use a photo or graphic that is timeless, so you don’t have to switch up your brand and look every time you need a design update.
3. Organize your home page.

All your pages and posts should be easily accessible from the home page for two reasons.

1) It’s better for Search Engine Optimization and

2) Your readers will thank you. In the form of pageviews.

Rather than having readers click on several different links to get to where they want to go, your menu bar should be clear and concise with only 5-10 items to choose from. Drop-down menus are ideal, since they allow readers to access various types of information right from the get-go. However, keep menus short and to the point. If you have more than 15 drop-downs, find a way to consolidate your categories. Your sidebar should include pertinent information, buttons, or other material in an organized fashion too. Don’t be afraid to link to past posts or feature your favorites in your sidebar. You want a way for your readers to click as many levels deep into your content as they wish – with an easy way to get back to the home page, or other pages without getting lost.

4. Optimize your footer.

The header, menu bar, sidebar, footer – all are of equal importance when it comes to your content. The footer, in fact, is one of the best places to put information and widgets. Treat each area with equal care to make your site cohesive and easily navigable, but do it in a way that makes sense.

When someone hops onto your blog, they probably want to know who you are and what you’re about. So put your “About Me” widget up top. Once they’ve scrolled through your site a little, and clicked on a post they are interested in, your footer is suddenly the first thing they see immediately after the blog post they are reading. So give them options to subscribe and follow you on social media. Providing your readers ways in which they can connect with you in different areas of your blog is effective and makes your blog look full, busy, and popular. Which is good!

5. Break up your ads.

Now that we’ve all been reading and writing blogs for awhile, we can easily spot ads at the drop of a hat. Even if you have buttons or graphics that are of use to your readers, the likelihood that they will be clicked on is practically negligible. Seeing that giant sidebar area dedicated to twenty 100px by 100px buttons is easy to scroll past. So instead of putting all your buttons in one place, break them up and mingle them with other sidebar or footer information. You’re not trying to deceive your reader, you’re trying to get their attention. Choose products and companies that you truly support, group them in twos or fours, and put them in places that make sense.

Hopefully these few tips are enough to get you headed in the right direction! We’d LOVE to see how you put these tips to use!

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25 Awesome Blog Post Ideas

Your blog allows readers to connect with you on a different level, but thinking of unique blog posts that are actually fun to write can be a challenge. Here are some ideas that let your readers know more about you, give you a fun activity to accomplish, or simply give you some blogging material when you’re feeling less than inspired. This is the first part in a series (of how many parts is to be determined) with awesome ideas for blog posts! (If you have ideas and/or photos you’d like to submit, just contact us!)

Redecorate a room in 72 hours. Set a budget, plan it out, and get it all done in two days. Spend the third day taking pictures and writing a blog post about the experience.

Share your favorite makeup look and write a tutorial on how you achieved it.

Write an entire blog post on paper, then scan it (or take a picture of it) and post it so your readers can see what your handwriting looks like.

Pick your favorite outfits, and have a backyard photo shoot. Don’t worry if you’re not a photographer, or are having a bad hair day. Just own it!

Do a video blog (vlog), but instead of sitting in front of the camera – take a tour of your house and show your readers where you live.

Let your husband, spouse, or child do a “Guest Post” for you.

Share your wedding photos, even if they’re in a scrapbook. You might have dozens of scrapbooks dedicated to your wedding, but no one can see them if they’re sitting on the shelf!

Get in touch with your inner photographer, even if you’re not one. Have fun with camera angles, photo filters, and images of things you find beautiful. Hey – if it’s not great photography, at least we can call it “art”!

Recap some of the most important times in your life that you haven’t blogged about. Your graduation, a proposal, a pregnancy – anything we don’t know about you.

Get a crazy new hairstyle just so you can blog about it. Bring a camera, bring a friend, and document the craziness. Have long blonde hair? Go short and red with bangs! Sharing your look with your social circle is a completely justifiable reason for change.

Profile each one of your pets, and don’t feel silly for doing it. They are your fur-babies! We get it!

Learn something new, and share it with the world. Don’t know how to sew? Want to learn how to decorate cakes? Get started and document the journey (and every mess in between.)

Profile your children on their birthdays. Talk about their likes, dislikes, and you can even have them draw a self-portrait for the post!

Record a video of you and your family playing a board game. Let us see your family dynamic!

Book reviews may be over-done, but instead of picking the latest bestseller, or a novel… pick a book that changed your life, and tell us why.

Try a new beauty product you’d ordinarily never buy. Glitter blue eyeshadow? Yes please! Whether it’s success or failure, you stepped out of that comfort zone!

Post your mid-year goals and how you plan to achieve them. Goals aren’t just for New Year’s anymore!

Share your meal plan and grocery list for the week. Blog the recipes of your favorite meals, even if it’s just a sandwich.

Host your own “Post Secret” and allow people to anonymously comment on your blog post with their secrets.

Share what’s currently on your phone. Screenshot your pictures, funny texts between you and your friends, random notes, your current background, and anything else that expresses who you are (at the moment anyway.)

Do something your spouse loves to do. Tag along and take pictures, then write about the experience. Who knows, maybe fishing and drinkin’ beer could be your new past-time! (Or maybe you just get brownie points for this one.)

Teach us something you know how to do. Can you give yourself a french manicure? Make the fluffiest pancakes ever? Give us the intel! Share that knowledge!

Purchase something from a fellow blogger. Whether it’s from an Etsy store, or a service they provide – write about the experience and they’ll thank you forever!

Try a new fad workout or diet, and give us the inside scoop on whether or not it REALLY works!

Refurbish something you just can’t stand any longer. Maybe it’s an old purse or a hideous chair – but make it your mission to make it amazing.

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5 New Tips for Choosing a Domain Name

Let’s face it, there are thousands of articles on picking a domain name, most of which give you the nuts and bolts: Pick a .com, don’t hyphenate, make it short, make it easy to say and spell, etc… However, with new blogs and websites popping up everywhere, fitting your brand into these tight criteria can seem nearly impossible! So here are some new tips for choosing a domain name! They may “look” the same, but these criteria strongly depend on your business, and how you interact with others!

Before you go register your blog or business name with every suffix and hyphen possible, ask yourself this one important question:
How am I sharing my content?
Social Media

If you are primarily sharing your blog or website through Facebook, Twitter, or other social platform where users CLICK over to your site, your domain name is going to be an afterthought. Since users aren’t physically typing anything into their browser, being able to spell or say the domain is not as important as it once was.
Tips for this type of sharing:

1. Make it short. Fitting your URL into a tweet or Facebook post looks much nicer, and is better for branding if it is able to fit completely. This increases the likelihood that a user will remember your domain name, and further strengthens your online image. This way, you don’t have to use link shorteners as often when directing people to your website. (Not necessarily a post though, as those URLs are longer.)

2. Match it to your blog or website name. This may seem obvious, but pick a domain name that matches your brand or website name, even if it means registering a .net or hyphenating. For example, let’s say you have a very common blog name like “Busy Mom of Three.” Ideally, you would have registered “busymomofthree.com” to keep things simple, but that wasn’t available so you chose to use your nickname as a domain instead. Or maybe you wanted something more timeless, so you choose “BusyMominBoston.com.” Instead of skipping over your brand to get a non-hyphenated .com, try getting creative and sticking to your blog’s name (if it’s important to you, and you’ve branded it as such) like “BusyMomof3.net” or “Busy-Mom.net”.

3. Use keywords. Previously, the above was discouraged because people would type in what they THOUGHT was the URL, and be taken to a different (possibly competing) website, and thus take away your traffic. However, if someone intends on getting to YOUR website, and doesn’t arrive there by typing in what would seemingly be your domain – where do they go? Search engines! Readers are persistent, and want to find exactly what they are looking for. Often they will go directly to a search engine before ever typing in the domain because of this issue. They will head over to Google and type in your blog’s title to find you, then click on the correct link from there. Hyphenating your blog title is great for search traffic too, as hyphens are simply read as spaces as search engines crawl your sites. So be sure to pick words that people will search for when trying to find your blog or website.

If you’re not able to find the perfect domain name with keywords, just remember that your content will guide them to the right spot. If you create a new or novel word or phrase, such as the new site “Pinnerly.com” – obviously this won’t be a keyword in finding their website. Which bring us to BRANDING your website, and MARKETING your content!
In-Person Interaction

If you are a business owner, and often refer people to your website through business cards, or in person – picking a domain name that is easy to say and spell is much more important.

Tips for this type of sharing:

1. Make it easy to say out loud. If you’re referring people to your website, there’s nothing more awkward than SAYING dashes out loud, or spelling impossible names. “Yes, just go to “Johnstonemeyer, that’s s-t-o-n-e-m-e-y-e-r, dash sprinkler dash repair dot com” (johnstonemeyer-sprinkler-repair.com). Instead, make it short and simple to say, like “J-S-R outdoors dot com.” (JSRoutdoors.com). It may not perfectly reflect your business name, but it has simple letters (not “M”s or “N”s which are difficult to enunciate) and is short and sweet.

2. Make it easy to type into a browser. Trying to see small print on a business card or brochure can be difficult for people trying to type in your domain name. Avoid letters that string together like lowercase Ms, Ns, and double Ls. Capitalize letters within your domain, like “CreativeGirlMedia.com” when printed, and make the words within the domain easy to read. For example, it’s okay if you have a longer domain name if each word is simple, such as “HomeKitchensNebraska.com” because people can glance at each word in the domain and get it correct without having to read the exact spelling. However, if you have initials, random numbers, or strange words like “4fantasyftbl.com”, people are much less likely to get it correct or even attempt to type it in. So, don’t use abbreviations (unless they’re common, like “LLC”) and be sure to keep it simple.

If you do a combination of the above (which most people will likely do) – pick a happy middle. Most importantly, make it reflect your brand and purpose. The way you brand your domain, share it, and what content you have on your site is far more important than the domain itself. What do Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook have in common? Their domain names are all words that DID NOT EXIST or didn’t correlate to their site’s subject matter directly until they were branded!

No one would have ever searched for “Facebook” before it existed!

Most of the cardinal rules of getting a domain name may still apply, but with social media and other sharing platforms it’s much easier to market your website as opposed to trying to brand JUST your domain name! Focus on creating great content, or on your own unique idea – and no matter your domain, people will flock to your site if they are interested in you.

Good luck purchasing your domains!

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Busy Behind the Scenes!

Secondly, prepare your Google Readers and inboxes (and if you’re not subscribed yet, definitely enter your e-mail address to the right or below this post) for some awesome and informational posts, all dedicated to blogging, your blog, your blog design, optimization, monetization…well, we’ll let the schedule do the talking. Here is what is planned for the rest of 2012!
July: Starting a Blog!

From picking your domain name, to transferring to WordPress – this month is dedicated to getting you up and running easily and quickly.

Blogging on WordPress

The most powerful blog and website builder, this month we cover how to transfer to, write on, and manage your WordPress blog or website.

Designing a Great Blog

Making your blog beautiful can be fun and simple with these tips and tricks for excellent design!

Using Social Media

Sometimes social media can be intimidating, but our easy guides will help you use them to your advantage.

Marketing Your Blog

We’ll share the many ways in which you can gain more blog traffic, get your blog noticed, and gain a network of meaningful relationships.

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Get Organized With This Blog Post Planner!

There are over 200 blog posts scheduled at CGM for the coming year, and even more will crop up intermittently about relevant topics. Planning your blog posts can be one of the best ways to build a successful blog. So here is a gorgeous little blog post planner you can download and print out!

If you’re using WordPress, try the the WP Editorial Calendar plugin. You can easily drag and drop scheduled blog posts in a calendar. If you’re using Blogger, you can schedule your blog posts by selecting a date below your post editor. Either way, it’s good to write your posts ahead of time if you can, and schedule them at relevant times.

Write out blog post ideas in the notes section of the planner, and be sure to check off everything you need to do before you publish!

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